Hughes damaged his knee ligaments on the opening day of the season, against Bolton Wanderers, and he has missed much of the campaign so far.
However, the central midfielder made his return for Derby as a late substitute in their 4-1 victory over Bolton last weekend.
And Phillips said: “It’s like a new signing. He was involved, we got him on at the weekend. And now hopefully he can play a big part from now until the end of the season. He’s a quality player.”
Hughes was expected to have a major part to play this campaign, but his injury has been a huge blow.
The 20-year-old’s absence has hurt Derby’s options in the centre of midfield, but he could still play a key part in their push for promotion.
The Rams look likely to miss out not he automatic promotion places, meaning their best hopes of going up are through the play offs.
Hughes’ next chance to impress could come at the weekend, with Derby due to take on Charlton Athletic at the Valley tomorrow.